Secure endcap OR DIE

Like all couples with a few extra bucks and some cooking ambition (from watching plenty of Jacques Pépin and Alton Brown), Andrea and I years ago purchased a KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer, the ne plus ultra of mixing appliances for the home. It is solidly built, and its sterling reputation is well-deserved.

The “head” of the mixer contains a powerful motor. For normal use, that motor drives a downward-facing shaft to which one of a few mixing blades can be attached. For some purposes, however, the output can be directed “straight ahead” instead by removing a cap at the end of the head and attaching an accessory such as the optional meat grinder. (Mmm, ground-up meat…)

One Saturday afternoon recently I was home alone with the kids while Andrea was putting in extra time at the office. We decided to bake a cake! I hauled the mixer out of its usual place on our seldom-used-appliance shelf (and I do mean hauled; as I said, it’s solidly built, and the thing is damn heavy) and set it up on the kitchen counter. The kids and I mixed up a batch of cake batter in the mixer’s bowl. They watched as I switched it on and for a few moments thereafter, then disappeared into the living room to play and await the completion of baking.

I remained, gazing into the bowl for the recipe-prescribed two minutes of high-speed mixing time, hypnotized as usual by the combination spinning and orbiting of the mixing blade (which KitchenAid calls — colorfully and rightly — “planetary” mixing) making a Spirograph pattern in the batter. What I didn’t notice until the very last second was the endcap on the head rattling loose from the vibrations of the motor. Normally the cap is secured by a screw tightened by a black knob. The kids may have fiddled with it and loosened it while the mixer sat unused on the appliance shelf. Now, as I watched helplessly, it worked itself free and dropped into the bowl.

Like every other part of this mixer, the endcap is a hefty chunk of metal. The massive steel mixing blade, all but invisible as it spun at top speed, batted it effortlessly out of the bowl and straight past my head about two inches from my right temple. I retrieved it from the far side of the room, locating it by following the thready trail of cake batter it flung up and across my shirt, over my shoulder, and along the floor and walls.

F.J. Raymond famously called “being shot at and missed” even more satisfying than an income tax refund, but there was nothing satisfying about this miss. I was seriously rattled. I counted the many ways in which I was one lucky bastard, beginning with not having brained or blinded myself or my kids and ending with not having even made a dent in the sturdy mixer blade, bowl, or endcap. I promptly gave Jonah a long-overdue lesson on how to use our cordless phone to call 911 if he should ever, you know, find Dad lying in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor, or something.

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